What would you do if you won the lottery? While many people’s first thoughts might jump to buying a new house or travelling the world on a private jet, Frances Connolly has given away more than half of her jackpot to good causes.
The 55-year-old ex-teacher from Hartlepool in Co Durham won a whopping £115 million on the EuroMillions in 2019, and since then she’s gone on to donate huge sums of money to help others.
Speaking to The Mirror, she said giving to charity ‘gives her a buzz’, adding: “I get to change people’s lives every day if I want to.
“Helping other people and doing something to help other people will lift you.
“If you can give to others, whether it’s time or money, it’s really important, it gives you a buzz. It’s addictive. I’m addicted to it now.”
However, Frances has been given a ‘budget’ by her husband Patrick after she spent cash set aside for charities over the next ten years in just six months.
Discussing her most recent handouts, she said: “I’m at about 10 or 11 million paid directly to charity, but I don’t keep a tally in case Paddy finds it.
“He gave me an annual budget for good causes. We set one this year, I agreed to it. I’ve already spent all the money. It was to take us up to 2032.”
The former teacher and social worker joked: “People do ask, ‘How did you cope with that amount of money?’
“I say: ‘I never did. It wasn’t in the bank for two days’.”
The various good causes Frances has been involved with include £5,000 sent to buy essentials for Ukrainian refugees, the purchase of a £50,000 caravan for young carers and the set up of a ‘Local Heroes’ awards.
She and her husband have also helped pensioners connect with loved ones by donating electronic tablets and giving hospitals pyjamas and laptops during the lockdown.
Frances, originally from Northern Ireland, explained: “If you can do good things for deserving people, why wouldn’t you just do it?
“It makes no sense to me to have that kind of money and not use it to do good in the world.”
When she won the jackpot on New Year’s Day 2019, Frances knew exactly what she wanted to do with the money.
It didn’t take long before £1 million was spent on the PFC Trust in Hartlepool and the Irish-based Kathleen Graham Foundation, which is named after Frances’ mum.
And an initial £60 million giveaway was handed out to the Connolly’s three grandchildren, eight siblings, 15 nieces and nephews, four great nieces and nephews, and a number of strangers.
While she joked that husband Patrick would’ve first spent the money on ‘an electric fence and machine gun turrets’ to ‘protect their winnings’, she knows he’s just as supportive of her ventures as she is.
“He tells everybody I’m the one doing the charities, but it’s his money and if he wasn’t happy with what we’re doing we wouldn’t be doing it,” she said.
Frances continues to spread her good will, most recently holding a charity gala night at Hartlepool College which raised £100,000.
She said: “This is an area that needs support. One of the things that makes me most proud is the support we’ve been able to give to kids who just never get a break from looking after their loved ones.
“Money liberates you to be the person you want to be. I’d say to anyone in our situation: ‘Think about the person you want to be.’
“The money will free you to be that person.”
Featured Image Credit: Alamy